This past week, I was privileged to attend a special, historical trail symposium presented by the Santa Fe Trail Association and the National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association. From start to finish, it was one of the best organized and information-packed excursions I’ve ever been a part of. If you missed it, you missed a lot. That said, word on the street is that these folks will have an equally significant retreat in St. Louis in 2019. Consider yourself duly informed. If you’re interested in early trails, western vehicles, and the particulars surrounding those studies, you’ll want to make sure you have the next event marked on your ‘to do’ list. With that said, I thought I’d take the next few weeks and give a brief overview of some highlights of this year’s event.
The Olathe Community Center was an exceptional facility for the formal presentations shared during the 2017 Santa Fe Trail Association symposium.
Larry Short introduced each of the half dozen speakers to a crowd of just over 150 folks from all over the country.
The presentations for the 2017 Santa Fe Trail symposium were held at the Olathe Community Center and the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Historic Farm. Other segments of the gathering included a series of bus tours focused on different aspects of the Santa Fe Trail. Organizers also included a ‘night-at-the-museum’ dinner and tour of the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City. That facility - and the discoveries it holds - is beyond amazing. Some attendees even made the brief trip to Ft. Leavenworth to take in even more history housed in the Frontier Museum.
While informal talks were conducted throughout the multitude of activities, the opening presentations for the event were held at the Olathe Community Center. Unfortunately, that simple-sounding name doesn’t do much to convey what an outstanding asset this facility is to the local area. Surrounded by an ultra-modern, yet relaxed and inviting atmosphere, the resource is filled with art, education, exercise, and sports activities for the young and young at heart. While we were there, families were celebrating birthdays, holding volleyball games, swimming, participating in study groups, checking out a huge consignment sale, exploring a farmer’s market, and relaxing in the picturesque setting and picnic/playground areas. It’s an incredibly welcoming jewel for the folks in Olathe.
Steve Schmidt’s presentation on the Sibley Survey provided an exceptionally detailed look at the history, beginnings, and development of the Santa Fe Trail.
Mike Dickey outlined a wealth of information related to Native American tribes located along the Santa Fe Trail.
Truth is, if you came to this event expecting to learn more than you could carry away, you weren’t disappointed. There was so much information passed along throughout the multi-day event that it would be tough to get it all into one blog post. As a result, this week, I’ll limit my focus to the formal presentations and share more details on the rest of the symposium in the weeks to come.
My presentation focused on the historical development of freight wagons on the Santa Fe Trail. It included a considerable amount of primary source details and imagery never shown before.
Leo Oliva expounded on the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ within his talk related to Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail.
Doug Hansen of Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop provided a wealth of information related to the Art of the Wheelwright. His talk was generously filled with technical and practical information.
Craig Crease not only delivered an excellent formal presentation on the Santa Fe Trail but also hosted an extensive bus tour highlighting the trail’s original routes.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share even more images and insights from this Santa Fe Trail Association event. To the person, the meeting was filled with friendly, engaging folks. I’m glad I was there. Not only does that kind of atmosphere make for an ideal learning experience, it left everyone with a lot of great memories. Special thanks to Greg and Joanne VanCoevern for reaching out to me over two years ago as they helped to plan this impressive gathering.
Rawhide Johnson, Cameron Bean, and Jeff McManus provided additional presentations at the historic Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop.
Next week, we’ll focus on a lot more of the event activities, including a hands-on look at wheelwrighting presented by Don Werner of Werner Wagon Works.
Please Note: As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved. The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC